I’m a forty-seven year old reading addict of both fiction and nonfiction and who really feels the addiction’s withdrawal when writing, which is probably the only negative of writing. I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and after graduating from university and working in IT for four years, I moved to Montreal. After four years there and quite shocked by its very liberal attitude, I moved to Kingston, Ontario, then to Guelph, Ontario, then to Ottawa, Ontario. Then after ten years, I found myself missing Montreal and the good friends I had made there and moved back to. I learned to embrace its liberalism and now believe it is the best city in Canada. I have always enjoyed putting my thoughts to paper and wrote several short stories before recently writing two novels, On Herring Cove Road and then Still on Herring Cove Road.
I’m inspired by the work of other authors -not only to write, but to continue writing.
I believe it was Mark Twain who inspired me to write. I love his way of telling stories by making each chapter a short story on its own. In fact, I wrote my last two novels based partly on his style.
Authors also inspire me to continue writing. There are times when I find myself looking at my work with too critical an eye and when it gets to the point that I’m getting too negative with it and can’t seem to put myself in the readers place, I step back and open a novel of the same genre, and narrated in the same tense and person. After a bit of being a reader, I find I’m either happy with the way my novel is going or am motivated to change it where it seems necessary at that time.
I dabbled in writing at a young age, but it wasn’t until my early thirties that the thought entered my head of seriously trying my hand as a writer; though, I still don’t think I reached the point where I can call myself a writer, for two main reasons: to be called a writer implies I do it for a living, and I think I have to finish more works before I can prove to myself I’m serious enough about it to possibly make a living at it.
I don’t know if it was a premature midlife crises or what exactly happened, but at about thirty-two, after a divorce and several tries at dating, something seemed to suddenly click. Something in me changed, almost a personality change. I began to look at things differently and began noticing things I wouldn’t have normally noticed before, including smells and sounds, and then I thought I would write a full novel and over about a year wrote what would be the first draft of On Herring Cove Road. It was much too big, almost 200k words. I soon got sidetracked with work and wrote only several short stories again. It wasn’t until a couple years back, when I was forty-five that I decide to approach On Herring Cove again and cut it down into a much shorter and easy to read story.
What books have influenced your life most?
I would have to say that Mark Twain’s books certainly influenced the humour in my life, which is also reflected in my novels. Then there are Margaret Atwood’s books, which often give a lesson on the human condition. Thirdly, Dickens’ books certainly made me thankful for what I have at the moment and that a situation, good or bad, is really just a snapshot of life as it is at that point in time.
There are two prominent characters in On Herring Cove Road, with several minor and not so minor characters.
One prominent character is Mr. Rosen who, at the time of the story, is an introvert that enjoys things the way they are but thirty years before, was a popular and well humoured extrovert. At the time of the story, he’s pretty much mothered by his wife, who had, up to the point of the story, avoided placing her husband in any uncomfortable situation.
The second prominent character is a nine-year old boy named Dewey Dixon with a disciplinarian and racist father and a restrictive and protective mother. Dewey is rather naive and pretty much friendless outside of school hours and is not looking forward to a lonely, isolated summer.
Where did you get the idea for this story?
The idea blossomed from my fascination with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just to be clear, I didn’t have it, but the giving of a name to a condition that I had heard of many years before gave it credibility. In the past it had been called Shell Shock, due to the high number of cases during both world wars, and it was accepted by some and not accepted by others, like General Patton who caused quite a stir when a war correspondent wrote about two incidents where the general had slapped and called patients in a military hospital cowards because, since they had no physical wounds, he thought they were trying to play crazy to get out of the fight. I became fixated with the then recognized condition and the outlined began to grow from there.
That’s right, I don’t call Herring Cove Road a series with a larger storyline covering all the novels, but instead I call it a grouping of character driven stories taking place around the same time period and location. Still on Herring Cove Road includes the same characters from On Herring Cove Road but does not follow the same storyline and includes several more characters, with the prominent ones being Blue and Stevie. Blue is a twelve-year old boy who’s over confidence pushes him into a situation that he only later realizes is over his head, and Stevie is a small ten-year old who has had a tough time through his young life, likes to fight and is good at it, but only talks through Blue by whispering in his ear and having Blue repeat what he had said. The main theme of the story is about friendship, but in the story there will be murder and a pedophile and a killer of children.
What can readers expect next from Herring Cove Road?
There are three more stories to come out of the grouping. Another one involving the character Blue from the second, called Not on Herring Cove Road: The Trouble with Blue. I still don’t have the outline finished, so I’m currently writing Further Down Herring Cove Road: Marvin’s Memoirs. It’s a story that deals with poverty and class differences and does so while jumping from past tense first-person to present tense third-person as Marvin’s present life begins to mirror his amusing and yet shocking past. And the last one, only because I don’t yet have plans for more stories within the group, has a working title of On Old Sambro Road: The Young Arian.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That’s really hard to say. The first book took almost a total of two years from start to finish, whereas the second took about 8 months altogether, but it was a shorter and simpler story. I think that as I find my groove, they should take anywhere from six months to a year for a 100K word novel.
What was the hardest thing about writing your books?
The hardest thing about writing my books is trying to control my self-criticism as I write. And once I’ve gotten that under control for the moment, the next difficult thing is to mentally step back from the work in progress. I might physically leave my writing area, but my mind is still there, and though I may force myself to focus on what’s happening around me, as soon as I have an opportunity for my mind to wander, it goes straight back to the book. There are many moments when watching the news or a movie that my mind wanders and I miss sections of five to twenty minutes of it. Even when going to bed, my mind works on the pattern of events yet to be written, or a part I just don’t feel good about as it stands at that moment or some unwritten dialogue. I actually have to pop a mild sleeping pill in those situations. And to make it worse, there have been times that I have wrote straight through the night only to be reminded of the new day by the dawn’s rays coming through the window.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I don’t feel so experienced that I can offer much advise accept to say don’t be a strict follower of all the writing advice given for free on the web, including the so-called rules. If these rules for creating art were strictly followed by all then we wouldn’t have many of the great authors we have and had. Imagine where Picasso would be if he followed the status quo. Everyone is different and writes with different styles, so write how you feel, but don’t be so confident to think that everything you are writing is gold. Be critical of what you write; it can only make your work better and speed up your development as a writer. If you feel you have to, then look at the so-called rules after writing and seriously question whether you breaking them is hurting or bettering your work. Maybe you should actually start the book with the weather. Maybe that passive sentence is more appropriate than an active one, and maybe that adverb better maintains the rhythm of the sentence.
What else can readers expect from you in the future?
Besides the character driven novels of Herring Cove Road, at one point I intend to take a break from that group of stories and try my hand at a children’s (middle school) fantasy series. I have much of the first novel outlined. I also have plans to write a romance/adventure/thriller based around the indentured labour/servitude system and abuses of the 1700’s. It will be quite a large book, but with the other stories I have lined up, it’s much further down the road.
How can readers contact you and learn more about your work?
I can be contacted by email at Email: MichaelKroft2013@gmail.com
And one can learn more about what I’m working on at:
Goodreads: Michael Kroft
And a seldom posted blog: http://michaelkroft-author.blogspot.ca/
I haven’t yet put the time into creating a website and have been only planning to do that as a break after my third novel, Further Down Herring Cove Road: Marvin’s Memoirs.